I’ve never been to Boston, but I had planned on living there. My senior year of high school, Berklee College of Music was my post-graduation ideal. I bookmarked their homepage on my AOL account and would frequently revisit the same information and photos of the compact and neat dorm rooms, complete with a guitar stand or saxophone case next to the bed. “A musician lives here,” it seemed to say. “A performer!”
I wasn’t much of a singer, but I took vocal lessons and recorded a few operatic tracks to send in with my application. My plan was to go to school for Music Business, but at Berklee, you still had to study performance, so I would double major in vocal performance, or do what little singing I had to do to get by. (I didn’t say it was a smart idea.)
But when it came time to commit to a school, I spent a weekend considering Columbia College in Chicago, which also had a music business program, and was six hours away from home. I didn’t want to admit that I wanted to say close to my family, too proud to say I’d miss my parents and sister or other facets of the life I professed I couldn’t wait to get away from. Chicago won out, because I visited and fell in love. It could just as easily have been Boston.
Even having never been to Boston, I have several ties to the city. Friends who are from there, friends who went to school there, friends who live there, or close by. I read Michelle Tea books about her teen years spent traveling to the metropolis from her home in nearby Chelsea, and fantasized about its cool gutterpunks blending in with the thickly accented natives.
I wondered often how different life would have been if I’d chosen a different path. Chicago is a great city, one that people take great pride in, no matter how long they’ve lived there, or if they hail from a suburb. They’ll still wear their Cubs or Sox gear with gusto, eat their pizza while telling you it’s much better than any you’ll find in New York, and boast about the blues clubs that originated some of the best sounds you’ve ever heard, even if they’d never experienced it firsthand.
I imagine that Bostonians have that same feeling of pride, at least that’s what I hear from everyone I’ve met who has experienced the city. “It’s expensive,” they might admit, and “maybe a little rough around the edges,” but that’s the only naysaying I’ve ever heard from someone who has spent a lengthy amount of time there. The love is so evident and so strong.
I’ve never been to Boston, but I have love for it, as if it were my own. I feel like it would have welcomed me just like Chicago did, offering a home to a naive college student who thought entering the music business in the early 2000s would be possible, or lucrative. I probably could have benefitted from a little bit of an east coast reality check, walking its streets and meeting its people, those very places and faces that are now affected by tragedy.
I may not have been there, Boston, but I’m with you.